When former President George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, arrived the other day, I started reading it almost right away. And while the style may be kind of staccato, even sterile, the book is a good and easy read. Yesterday, when I couldn’t focus on much at home, I took it with me when I set off to a local Starbucks and in an act surely subversive in Los Angeles read it out in the open.
I get the sense in watching this good man in his various television appearances promoting the book that he is a man at peace. He doesn’t agonize over his legacy or feel the need to demonize his successor or his critics, the latter who are legion. He has been attacked more viciously than have been some of his predecessors more worthy of reprimand and endured insults his critics wouldn’t level against enemies of our nation, yet he takes it all in stride. Or at least appears to. He just brushes it off, as if par for the course.
When, in his book, he does address such criticism, he puts it in historical context:
The shrill debate never affected my decisions. I read a lot of history, and I was struck by how many presidents had endured harsh criticism. The measure of their character, and often their success, was how they responded.
By this standard, he is a man of sterling character. He acknowledges that some suggested he “should have pushed back harder against the caricatures.” But, he believes would have debased the presidency “to stoop to the critics’ levels.”
Advice to all of us, particularly those in the political arena, who experience the slings and arrows of outrageous attacks.